On the Thursday before the next primary, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton went at it again with another Democratic debate. This time the location was in New Hampshire, the site for the next presidential primary. Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton took turns throwing barbs at each other, bashing each other’s voting records and most notoriously, challenging the proposed ideas being bandied about. When it came to the discussion of campaign funding and the handling of Wall Street banks, the exchange drew the biggest adversarial moments. What may have become lost in the latest Democratic debate was when Bernie Sanders brought up the decriminalization of marijuana.
Bernie Sanders said it when he was discussing how a Wall Street banker could defraud millions of people only to avoid any prison time, while someone could get a criminal record just for possessing pot. Sanders pointed out that in many cases, it is a minority who has their life ruined. There is no comparing marijuana possession and usage to the actions of Wall Street bankers during the time of the economic crash.
Lives are thrown away when a conviction is rendered for pot. It is a crime that many minorities cannot come back from. Some will argue that possession is a solitary crime, thus the push for legalized pot in a few states. Colorado and Washington have already legalized pot. Now with several states opening the door for medical marijuana usage, perhaps it is time to legalize pot altogether.
That may sound preposterous to some, but consider some obvious trends.
Last summer CNN reported the sudden economic growth in Colorado since the legalization of pot in 2012. The focus of the CNN expose was the spike of Colorado’s housing market. According to the report, the value of homes shot up in the double-digits.
“There has been a huge bump in real estate prices due to the legalization of marijuana. It’s massively pushed up raw land and industry prices,” said James Paine, managing partner at West Realty Advisors.
The decriminalization of marijuana and legalization has also created jobs, according to Kelly Moye, a real estate agent, based in the state.
“The pot industry is creating jobs we didn’t have before. It’s brand new, it adds a whole new factor to the area; you have real estate needs, housing needs, job needs.”
Moye also adds that, “The quality of life is great and employers are bringing their employees here.”
Decriminalization and legalization of marijuana is not a topic which has rolled off the tongues of the other presidential candidates. It is clear that neither of them wants to anger any of their constituents with the conversation of pot. Legalizing pot is what would make Bernie Sanders, or any candidate stand out in the eyes of younger voters, those who have an idle stance on marijuana and pot smokers.
For all of Bernie Sanders’ talk regarding tuition-free public universities, and how he would finance that, legalized pot is one way of helping that goal become a reality. Much of the tax revenues generated from legalized pot could be spent on education, the nation’s infrastructure, and job creation. Bernie Sanders’ push to decriminalize marijuana could also eliminate some of the costs that are used to maintain prisons. Prison maintenance varies from state to state, but according to CNN Money, there is a staggering difference in cost per inmate, compared to college student.
In 2014, CBS News reported that $80 billion was spent on incarcerations in America. How much of that money went to the prohibiting of pot? In 2013, $20 billion was allocated to the criminalization of pot.
A state such as Illinois, which has a crisis hitting the Chicago Public School system that will cost the jobs of hundreds of educators, nearly four times the amount spent on a college student, gets used to house a prison inmate. In Michigan, which has a deadly water crisis in Flint, the spending on inmates is three times as much as a student.
Bernie Sanders could see legalizing pot as a way to create a revenue stream for the country, while cutting down a lot of the spending for incarcerations. Some of the potential surplus in revenue could go towards making sure Bernie Sanders’ vision of making public college tuition-free.
The legalization of pot and free college education are among the discussions which are popular topics with young voters.
Imagine walking into a convenience store and overhearing a conversation with two young people are having about politics. The political topic of discussion is Bernie Sanders and how he has the chance to get young voters out to the polls. Both people speak with the invigoration of having watched Bernie Sanders conduct himself during the Democratic debate.
During the mention that Bernie Sanders wants to make public college tuition-free, the sound of glee can be heard throughout the convenience store. That is when one person says that, “all Bernie Sanders needs to do is promise the legalization of pot, and young people will rush to vote for him.”
This was an actual conversation which took place in a Chicago convenience store.
During the last Democratic debate Bernie Sanders declared that his presidential campaign was not an “establishment” campaign, but a one for the people. There are a lot of people who want to see the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana take place. As of now, only Bernie Sanders is listening.
[Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images]